There's a new anti-aging upstart in town — and it's reportedly backed by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos
Going to space wasn’t enough. Middle-aged billionaire Jeff Bezos wants to extend human life — and to do so, he’s reportedly backing the latest entrant into Silicon Valley’s burgeoning race to slow aging.
A stealthy biotech called Altos Labs launched earlier this year with at least $270 million and a slate of longevity experts on board to pursue biological reprogramming technology, according to a scoop by the MIT Technology Review. Unnamed sources told the Technology Review that Altos will establish sites in the Bay Area, San Diego, Cambridge, UK, and Japan. In addition to Bezos, the operation is also rumored to be backed by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, who’s invested in Facebook and Twitter.
“The philosophy of Altos Labs is to do curiosity-driven research,” Manuel Serrano, of the Institute for Research in Biomedicine, in Barcelona, Spain, told the Technology Review. Serrano said he’s taking a job at the startup, though he did not respond to a request for comment made by Endpoints News.
Altos has also reportedly attracted the likes of Nobel laureate Shinya Yamanaka, whose pioneering work led to the discovery of Yamanaka factors, a group of protein transcription factors that play a role in the creation of induced pluripotent stem cells. The roster is also reported to include the Salk Institute’s Juan Carlos Izpisúa Belmonte, UCLA’s Steve Horvath, and cell reprogramming expert Wolf Reik, formerly of the UK’s Babraham Institute. They could not be reached for comment.
The well-documented (and in some cases ridiculed) anti-aging field has gained momentum in recent years, with AbbVie and Google-backed Calico reaching a $1 billion deal to double down on their partnership just a couple of months ago. They now boast 20 early-stage programs in the pipeline, with a focus on immuno-oncology and neurodegeneration that “has yielded new insights into the biology of aging.” Three of those programs are now in the clinic.
This past spring, anti-aging upstart BioAge Labs plucked a heart failure drug from Amgen’s discard pile to test in acute muscle indications. The candidate, BGE-105 mimics the effect of apelin, an endogenous ligand that boosts the production of APJ, a receptor that tends to be downregulated as people grow older. After combing through decades of health data from thousands of healthy volunteers, BioAge believes the apelin/APJ pathway is one key molecular driver of aging.
“I think the concept is strong, but there is a lot of hype,” Alejandro Ocampo, who used to work in Izpisúa Belmonte’s Salk lab, told the Technology Review. “It’s far away from translation.”